Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Galaad. The descendants of Machir, who were settled in Galaad, were particularly interested, in knowing how their female relations of the house of Salphaad, were to dispose of their fortunes, which God had allowed them. They knew that, by the law, their husbands would obtain possession; and if those husbands should be of another tribe, part of the land allotted to Manasses might be lost. See chap. xxvii., and Josue xvii. 1, 3.
Ver. 4. That is, an explanation of the jubilee, added by St. Jerome, who gives the sense of the Hebrew, though not the very words. — Lots. Hebrew, “when the jubilee of the children of Israel is come, then shall their inheritance be added to that of the tribe in which they are received; so shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.” (Haydock)
Ver. 6. Tribe. Hebrew adds family also: for heiresses were obliged to marry in their own family, to prevent the confusion of the inheritances. If they had a mind to renounce their right, they were at liberty to marry where they pleased. (Calmet) — The nearest relations, who chose to receive their land, were under an obligation of marrying them, Ruth iv. 6. (Haydock) — A similar law prevailed at Athens.
Ver. 7. Wives. Hebrew, “shall keep to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.” Those who marry heiresses must be of the same family: but others may take wives from any of the tribes of Israel, as the most holy did without scruple. (St. Jerome in Jer. xxxii.) (Tirinus) (Estius) — The Rabbins extend this law to all, with the Vulgate: but only during the time that the land of Chanaan remained undivided. (Selden, Succ. c. xviii.)
Ver. 8. Women. Hebrew, “every daughter that possesseth an inheritance….shall be wife to one of the family of the tribe of her father.” Commonly the females were debarred from inheriting land, when they had any brothers. The Levites were not concerned in these regulations, as they had no inheritance; and hence, we need not be surprised to find that St. Elizabeth, of the daughters of Aaron, (Luke i. 36,) was related to the blessed Virgin, who was of the family of David. The mother of St. Elizabeth might be of the tribe of Juda; or a maternal ancestor of the blessed Virgin might spring from the tribe of Levi. (Calmet) — Tradition determined the lawfulness of such marriages, and in this case, St. Augustine (Consens. Ev. ii. 2,) admires the providence of God, in causing his beloved Son, the great anointed, to be born both of the regal and priestly tribes, in which an unction was required, before the priests and kings were put in possession of their respective offices. Thus Christ was both priest and king, and such were anointed in the law of Moses. (Worthington)
Ver. 11. Father. They married their cousin-germans. The original is rather undecisive, as Dod may signify, “an uncle, great uncle, or cousin;” and a son, in Scripture, is often put for any descendant. The marriages of cousins were not expressly forbidden by the law, and if they had, they might have been dispensed with on this occasion, as well as when a brother died without issue. (Calmet) — Claudius was the first of the Romans who obtained leave of the senate to marry his brother’s daughter. (Suetonius) (Du Hamel)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
That the inheritances may not be alienated from one tribe to another, all are to marry within their own tribes.
1 And the princes of the families of Galaad,* the son of Machir, the son of Manasses, of the stock of the children of Joseph, came: and spoke to Moses before the princes of Israel, and said:
2 The Lord hath commanded thee, my lord, that thou shouldst divide the land by lot to the children of Israel, and that thou shouldst give to the daughters of Salphaad, our brother, the possession due to their father:
3 Now if men of another tribe take them to wives, their possession will follow them, and being transferred to another tribe, will be a diminishing of our inheritance.
4 And so it shall come to pass, that when the jubilee, that is the fiftieth year of remission is come, the distribution made by the lots shall be confounded, and the possession of the one shall pass to the others.
5 Moses answered the children of Israel, and said by the command of the Lord: The tribe of the children of Joseph hath spoken rightly.
6 And this is the law, promulgated by the Lord, touching the daughters of Salphaad: *Let them marry to whom they will, only so that it be to men of their own tribe:
7 Lest the possession of the children of Israel be mingled from tribe to tribe. For all men shall marry wives of their own tribe and kindred:
8 And all women shall take husbands of the same tribe: that the inheritance may remain in the families,
9 And that the tribes be not mingled one with another, but remain so
10 As they were separated by the Lord. And the daughters of Salphaad did as was commanded:
11 And Maala, and Thersa, and Hegla, and Melcha, and Noa, were married to the sons of their uncle, by their father
12 Of the family of Manasses, who was the son of Joseph: and the possession that had been allotted to them, remained in the tribe and family of their father.
13 These are the commandments and judgments, which the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses to the children of Israel, in the plains of Moab, upon the Jordan, over-against Jericho.
1: Numbers xxvii. 1.
6: Tobias vii. 14.